On May 16, 2019, Tampa Catholic received its largest donation ever. In fact, the $7-million gift from alumnus Arnie Bellini and his wife Lauren is believed to be the largest single gift to a Catholic school in Florida’s history.
Bellini is Founder of tech firm ConnectWise and a 1976 graduate of Tampa Catholic. The company was sold earlier this year and Bellini gave back some of his earnings to the school that helped him become the person he is today.
“Our educators are amazing passionate people who inspire our students to be the very best they can be. They inspired my family and they will inspire you,” Bellini told more than 700 students attending a ceremony planned by school leaders at the school’s gymnasium for the big announcement. It was part press conference; part pep rally. The event started with Bishop Gregory Parkes offering a prayer of thanksgiving.
“We are grateful for the blessings of our alumni and their generous support of this school,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes during the opening prayer. “May what we do here always be according to God’s will and for God’s glory.”
Soon after that, a drum line entered the gym followed by the school’s mascot walking onto a stage. Then the mascot revealed himself to be Bellini. He spoke for about 20 minutes about the impact Tampa Catholic has had on the life of his family and how he hopes his gift will transform the school and even the world.
“We will modernize and innovate education like no one has seen before and it will happen right here at Tampa Catholic,” said Bellini.
The $7-million gift will be allocated for The Bellini Center for the Arts. Bellini believes the arts are critical for teaching creativity and innovation which are needed for jobs of the future.
“A $7-million gift is truly unprecedented in the state of Florida for a Catholic school. We are truly blessed,” said Robert Lees, principal of Tampa Catholic High School.
The school is aiming to raise $23 million in total for other construction/expansion projects that include a new Student Services Center, Fitness Center, Academic Arcade, and Riverfront Commons, to open access to the Hillsborough River.
Parents, students and alumni expressed excitement for the future changes.
“Truly all parts of the plan are going to be important because they touch on arts, academic, fitness. It’s very comprehensive and will make a mark on our community,” said Dr. Elizabeth Nunez, a 1988 graduate whose daughter now attends Tampa Catholic.
Sister Lany Jo Smith, a 1966 grad who now lives in Connecticut, was at the school to hear the big news.
“I am so excited and so very happy about what this will mean to the current and future students of Tampa Catholic. I was especially pleased to hear about the focus on the arts. Art education is central to making a person whole in body, mind and soul,” said Sister Jo Smith.
The plans for a new fitness center sparked extra excitement with the students.
“I am most looking forward to all the sports renovations. That will help us improve in a lot of our sports,” said Katie, a Tampa Catholic Junior.
One thing is certain: The generosity of the Bellini family will leave a lasting legacy on the school.
“It’s a transformational gift and we’re so very grateful to the Bellini family for making this commitment to Tampa Catholic. It’s very inspiring to see a family that has achieved success and wants to share that with others,” said Bishop Parkes.